In the daily governance of a condominium corporation in Ontario, condo board members play a significant role. Although unpaid volunteers, board members are responsible for ensuring the corporation – as well as its financial assets – are secure and well managed on behalf of all owners, future owners and residents.
In light of the often-substantial operating budgets and reserve funds needed to maintain a condominium, the discussion often turns to whether board members should be better trained … in fact, should board members be third parties who are hired and trained by the corporation and paid as professional board members, not volunteers at all.
First, owners who volunteer for positions on their condominium’s board should be commended. It is an often thankless role with stressors and obligations. Many owners who are appointed or run for election are retirees having completed successful careers or are long-time owners and have time to contribute to running their condominium corporation. Others are young people with full-time jobs and young families.
Still, as volunteers, board members must be self-directed to learn about the Condominium Act (the “Act”) and the corporation’s documents, attend seminars and courses, read industry publications. This requires a high level of commitment for a volunteer position.
Additionally, board members must comply with a code of ethics and be bound by its provisions. They must maintain confidentiality as some board information is personal. Board members must prepare for, attend and actively participate at meetings. They should understand that the professional condominium manager is a valued ally and offers knowledge and advice. These are just some of the duties of a director.
The director’s duties are clarified more fully in the Condominium Act. These duties are:
- Manage the property and assets of the corporation on behalf of the owners (s.17(1))
- Control, manage and administer the common elements and assets of the corporation (s.17(2))
- Take all reasonable steps to enforce compliance with the Act, declaration, bylaws and rules (s.17(3))
- Exercise their powers and carry out their duties honestly and in good faith (s.37(1));
- Exercise the care, diligence and skill that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in comparable circumstances (s.37(1))
You can see that the responsibilities of a condo director are many and directors must carry out their duties with the standard of care set out in the Act. Obviously, in most cases, unless a condominium is self-managed, the delegation of the day to day operations are carried out by condo managers, who work under the board’s supervision.
Prior to 2017, there were no requirements for director education or course completion. However, it is now recognized that the position of board member is one that requires a great deal of commitment and responsibility, and raises questions about education. Is it incumbent upon board members in their volunteer role to undertake continuous education on their own time? Will this educational requirement in reality discourage owners from running for their condominium’s board of directors?
CAO Director Training
Since November 1, 2017, condo board members in Ontario have been required to complete the Condominium Authority of Ontario’s 21 online e-modules within six months of their appointment, election or re-election. Prior to 2017 there were no educational requirements for board members at all. This mandatory CAO training is a marked improvement over no educational requirement.
But is this enough? The CAO has issued this summer a call for content writers for five specific areas for Advanced Director Training. The five subject areas will become new Best Practices Guides. The subject areas are: Emergency planning and preparedness; Overseeing condominium managers; Procurement; Issue management; and Finance topics, including reserve funds, budgets, financial statements and investments.
So, should board members be more qualified and have more comprehensive training? Should board members be professional board members hired by the corporation? Or do we continue with volunteer board members who oftentimes may have little or no experience as long as they follow the advice of a professional condominium manager?
These questions remain to be answered. In the short term, condominium board members must complete the mandatory CAO online educational modules and heed the advice of professionals including their condominium manager or management company. Board members should also take advantage of the many resources available to them through organizations such as CAI and CCI which offer webinars, workshops, seminars and conferences.
Condominium communities depend on the professionalism, dedication and commitment of board members and condominium managers. Continuing education for all parties within the condo industry is one step towards achieving overall success.